Print this Page

Active Compassion

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  Matthew 14: 13-14  [circa AD 30, Galilee]


Yes (see bold above) the compassion of Jesus Christ [Israel AD 0 – 33] was an active thing. His feelings towards others were always matched by appropriate deeds.


Not for him was the sympathy that speaks the words and then departs. “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.


How helpless and hopeless I am on the sickness front. I visit, I look, I feel, I am terribly sad – but I am totally useless to do what he did. He “healed their sick.”


But that’s not the whole story in the above words in bold. In particular, to what do the opening words refer? “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself”?


Jesus had just heard that his cousin John, of the same age as himself (around 30), had been beheaded by King Herod. He had just heard that his cousin’s head had been paraded at Herod’s black-tie dinner party on a platter, had been given to a dancing girl, and she had given it to her mother – Herod’s second wife. What’s more, John’s friends had only been able to recover John’s body - and to bury that.


No wonder Jesus wanted to be alone with his grief.


Jesus got into that boat so as to go to a solitary place. But no! Before the boat had moored the great crowd had gathered “on foot from the towns.”


Has anyone asked you for help when you’ve been bereaved? When you’ve wanted to be alone? “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.


But there’s more. Immediately before this news came to Jesus about the murder of his cousin John, Jesus was in his home town in Galilee. He had tried to teach folk there in the synagogue. (Synagogues were (and are) teaching-places and to be distinguished from the Jerusalem Temple where sacrifices were still being offered in AD 30.)


Hearing his teaching they had been astonished and said “Where did this man get this teaching and these mighty works?” But they also knew that he hadn’t got these things locally, knew that he was the carpenter’s son, and knew his mother and his brothers and his sisters. They decided: he’s only the local boy grown up.......


How much stress can a human being put up with from others? And still have compassion – active compassion?


No sooner had the sick within that great crowd been healed than the matter of food for them arose, because by then it was evening. Jesus’ disciples say to him, “This is a desolate place [Jesus had chosen well for his intended solitary mourning] and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”


Again, how like Richard Syvret – powerless. Send them away to the shops.


Not so Jesus. “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”


The rest, as they say, is history. The crowd of 5,000 men plus further unnumbered women and children ate and were satisfied – with five loaves and two fish. And 12 baskets of left-overs were uneaten.


Yes, active compassion – yet again. Selfless active compassion.


Who is this man?

 ‘If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If he is not true man, how could he help us?' (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Pastor and martyr, 1906-1945)
 ‘He died that we might be forgiven,/ He died to make us good,/ That we might go at last to heaven,/ Saved by his precious blood.’  (Cecil Frances Alexander, Hymn writer and Poet, 1818-1895)
Richard Syvret

Email this newsletter to a friend
*All mandatory fields must be filled in

Friend`s name
Friend`s email address *
Your name
Your email address *

Send comment
*All mandatory fields must be filled in

Your name *
Your email address *
Your comment *